Julie London’s class.

BBC 4’s Legends series has been a very useful, if only because, on occasion,  it reintroduces the viewer to a popular artist whose artistary has, for some reason, been forgotten. Tuesday night’s  night’s programme, Julie London – The Lady’s Not a  Vamp, although not the most imaginatively titled or the most  revealing or searching of programmes, did remand at least one viewer of just how good London at her very best could be.

There has always been a problem with saying that one took her singing seriously. It was that everybody knew – of thought they knew – that what one was really taking seriously was the vocal sexiness that was married  to a body that men desired. The truth is that those that while those attributes counted in the short run, they counted less than people thought in the long run. In the long run, and this is the only run that counts, she had the kind of delivery, eschewing, as it did, the dramatics that tempted many of her contemporaries, that could hold the listener in thrall for hours, not because of how it sounded but because of what it sounded.

Her voice was at its very best when accompanied by a small group of musicians. It’s risky for a popular singer to be wholly dependent of on the voice alone, but London, despite her proclaimed – and seemingly ever present – lack confidence in her own vocal talent, took that risk , and the result for the listener was usually breathtaking.

Her vocal style has been described as being sultry, sexy, “come-hither”, intimate, breathy, warm, smoky, haunting, husky, sullen, sad, suggestive and seductive. It was all those things and more.

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